Current Tensions on Czech Political Scene

The Czech political scene has been quite dirty since the 1989 revolution. Not to an extent extraordinary in today’s Europe, but definitely dirtier than what Havel and his fellow political idealists (meant in the positive sense) had hoped for. And, for the past several years, it’s still less clear which party is in the lead and how long a government will last. The current one seems to be balancing on the edge of a cliff, the previous one was only an inch more stable.

The Czech electoral system does not have any means of adjusting the results. Which means that the two major parties, together with their smaller allies, can form a 100: 100 parliament. That is exactly what happened in 2006. Both the left wing and the right- wing parties found themselves unable to form a coalition. For some time it seemed there simply will be no government and we would have to wait for a new election. Which, of course, would be very awkward for all the parties involved: the citizens did their part and it’s actually politicians’ job to deal with the result, not to say “please, let’s try again.”

There is an end to the story. The right- wing coalition of Civic Democrats, Christian Democrats and, interestingly the Green Party (a right- wing party in the CR) persuaded two Social Democrats to change sides. A solution, but not a very elegant one.

During the presidential vote there was another departure and last month, fourth Social Democrat MP left for the centre- right ground. One may speculate what their motivations are, but it really is not the point. The point is that in Czech electoral system we vote for parties and we expect their nominees to implement party policy, not the policy of a party that contradicts our vote.

But there’s little to be done about it, unless we are to accept a system that supports strict party discipline. In the otherwise liberal First Czechoslovakian Republic (1918- 38), for example, all MPs signed a resignation paper at the start of their term, and their party was free to use it any time he would upset it. That certainly is not an example to follow in 2008.

And what about the electoral system? Shouldn’t there be some fixed minimum majority, some points added to the winning party so that it could form a coalition, no matter how closely it won? Such a system works in Italy. But Italy changes its government nearly every year since the WWII, so it may not be terribly effective.

We could also introduce majority electoral system. That would result in a two- party system. the Civic Democrats and the Social Democrats, like the US Democrats and Republicans. Promblems? Yes, at least two. The Czech parties are far more centralized and rigid, less of open platforms, which the US parties more or less are. Secondly, it would be impossible for smaller parties to influence the political process. Simply, a country’s system has to be ready for such a change and I’m not sure the Czech one is.

The tensions are high. The Social Democrats are enraged. The government coalition seems to be winning, but they too have some major problems. They can’t change the fact that the whole government project is a mess: the three parties have actually little to share when it comes down to single questions.

The Christian Democrats are conservative, socially oriented, pro- Church and they have a leader, Jirí Cunek, with questionable views on ethnic minorities. The same man has been cleared of corruption charges under very strange circumstances, which happened to be condemned by a court several weeks ago. The Greens are pro- European, multicultural and, of course, eco- friendly. The Civic Democrats are not really put off by the EU or ecology. The three leaders don’t really like each other. And two of them have a couple of rebel MPs in their parties.

No wonder they keep arguing about nearly every major issue. So, seen in this light, there is no winner, the fight is a constant draw. Only the Communist Party has an ongoing holiday: without any danger of having a responsibility, without the ambition to win the next election (they know they can’t), they can oppose just about everything.

© 2008 |